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Libertarianism and Catholic social teaching on immigration.

At the basis of libertarianism lies the nonaggression principle--the theory that as long as someone's actions do not infringe on the rights of others then there should be no legal restriction against them. The goal of a libertarian is to increase individual liberty and thereby, as but one result, improve the economy. Catholic social teaching is grounded in the idea that all human beings have dignity and thus should be treated with the utmost respect and cared for as children of God. Both the libertarian movement and the Catholic Church are known for having clearly defined and very strong opinions on topics having to do with political issues, but oftentimes they are perceived as being on different ends of the political economic spectrum as far as human rights are concerned. (1) With regard to one topic in particular that is very relevant in America today--immigration--the two very different perspectives are either not that far apart or perhaps are even fully congruent. (2)

While there is some discordance among libertarians as to what the proper stance on this issue should be, (3) using the nonaggression principle as a guide, one can conclude that libertarianism supports open borders. (4) The social teaching of the Catholic Church teaches that immigrants should be accepted as important potential contributors.

One objection to immigration arises from the large number of illegal immigrants estimated to be in this country. According to the Department of Homeland Security, there are around 10.8 million unauthorized residents living in America. (5) The reasons for migration are varied--a better life, more money, escaping a dangerous home, and so on. For libertarians, the reasons for emigrating are more or less irrelevant. They are more concerned with simply allowing people the freedom to move as they please. For the Catholic Church, in contrast, the reasons for emigrating are of utmost importance because they believe that these people have the right to work and the right to life, and therefore the right to immigrate. While they use different justifications, libertarians and the Catholic Church reach the same conclusion: Open borders are the only correct and just way to handle migration problems. Libertarian principles align with Catholic social teaching in the case of immigration. If America were to rewrite its immigration policies to correspond to libertarian philosophy, not only would the economy improve but also this country would be showing a greater respect for human life, which is a huge component of Catholic social teaching.

In the first section of this article, we discuss the libertarian analysis of immigration. The second section is devoted to an analysis of the views of Catholic social teaching on this issue. The purpose of the third section is to compare and contrast our own (libertarian) viewpoint with that of several other scholars who are considered by some to be inclined in this direction: Gary Becker, William Simon, Daniel Griswold, and Stuart Anderson. We conclude in the last section.

Libertarian Views of immigration

Libertarian philosophy rests on the nonaggression principle or the NAP. The act of immigrating is not a violent one, and therefore, according to Block and Callahan,
   not being guilty of a violation of the basic libertarian principle
   of not initiating aggression, there is no justification for
   visiting any violence upon [an immigrant]. Since forceful removal
   from our shores would indeed constitute an initiation of force
   against him, this would be improper. (6)

The United States is not lacking in land. It has vast unused tracts of acreage in different areas of the country that could possibly be used to house additional residents. Currently the US government controls virtually all of this empty territory, but libertarians point out that government does not have the right to act as owner of this land if someone else desires to homestead it. (7) Berg goes so far as to call the act of denying immigrants the possibility to make a better life for themselves "morally wrong" because the immigrants are not infringing on anyone else's rights. (8) Immigrants do not have the right to impose on the private property rights of their rightful owners, but they do have the right to acquire any unhomesteaded property for their own. (9)

Alternatively, that could mean merely renting land or housing from a willing owner, but many states have laws mandating that landlords can only rent land to citizens or legal residents of the United States. However, it is, in fact, a violation of libertarianism to limit the type of person to whom a landlord can rent land. (10) This is because libertarians believe that mutually beneficial exchange is always justified. For example, a landlord will allow an illegal immigrant to board on his property if and only if the benefits, or the additional income, outweigh the marginal cost, or the next best thing that the landlord would have been doing with the property in question. In the same way, immigrants would only leave their country of origin to start a completely new life in a completely foreign land if the expected benefits of living in America, including higher wages, better access to healthcare, and more consistent education for their children, outweigh the costs of picking up and starting completely from scratch. People will trade if the exchange is mutually beneficial at least in the ex ante sense. To deny people the chance to gain something through trade goes against the very roots of the libertarian philosophy.

In addition to believing that immigration is an embodiment of freedom, libertarians demonstrate that immigration improves the economy of the receiving country. One typical objection to an open border policy is that outside workers will take jobs away from American citizens. However, as Todea points out, immigration helps boost output in the labor market. (11) Illegal migrant workers do not tend to compete for the same kinds of jobs as native workers do. (12) Immigrants are more likely to seek jobs that are low in pay and high in labor intensity, whereas citizens typically attain employment with better compensation. In fact, if immigration were completely open, not only would migrant workers fill labor gaps that Americans are unwilling or unable to take, but the new people in America would create new demand, and therefore more businesses would be set up to provide for these additional needs. (13) Immigrants end up being both "consumers and producers" (14) and also can become entrepreneurs. Newcomers bring with them both hands and brains on the one hand, and mouths on the other. Immigrants offer their receiving countries "skills, knowledge, and international connections." (15) Migration "attracts advantages and capital for the economy of the host countries," (16) and, therefore, recipient natives will not benefit by limiting the number of migrants coming in. Whether this is true or not, for the libertarian, the essential question is: Do immigrants necessarily violate rights by moving to the domestic country? Because this is not at all the case, it would be illicit to prevent their transit, whatever the benefits or costs to the native population.

Migration also has positive effects on the donor countries. Once they have reached the United States and have secured jobs, a large portion of the money the immigrants earn is sent back to their home countries in the form of remittances. Supporters of tighter borders argue that these payments reduce American GDP. However, remittances "encourage capital flow and economic interconnections between the First World and the developing world." (17) They promote "reliance on the global economy rather than encouraging self-reliant, sustainable communities in the developing world." (18) Opponents of open immigration claim that this "global economy," or globalization, is problematic. Globalization, however, means that countries will become more interdependent and therefore specialize in producing what they have the comparative advantage in, and, through trade, everyone will be made better off. Immigrants send remittances home and these allow for globalization. That in turn leads to increases in specialization across countries. Therefore to limit immigration would mean slowing down the globalization process, which would cut off at the knees one of the best ways third world countries can raise themselves out of poverty. (19)

Libertarianism is about freedom. This freedom has only one limiting factor--one person's freedom cannot infringe on someone else's freedom (the nonaggression principle). Immigration does not violate the NAP; therefore, the borders should be open for all people. Free immigration also promotes economic prosperity, both in the recipient and in the donor countries. The labor market of the receiving country is stabilized as well as diversified while the economy of the sending country is strengthened because of remittances. Immigration breaks down the stark borders between nations and increases globalization. Libertarians support open immigration because it makes the most sense when examined from the perspective of liberty. The fact that it also promotes economic growth should not be held against this policy.

Immigration and Catholic Social Teaching

Catholic social teaching does not examine immigration from the same perspective, but it does reach the same conclusion. Fundamental to Catholic theology is the idea that humans are all created in the "likeness of God," (20) and because of that all humans are worthy of respect. A common theme throughout the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as a theme found in many papal encyclicals is that the foundation on which all human rights rest is the dignity of the person. (21) This respect and dignity that the Catholic Church advocates certainly extends to immigrants; they have as much of a right to life as any other human being. These principles of human dignity and human life are two of the ten building blocks of Catholic social teaching set forth by Byron. (22) They apply directly to immigration, and the Catholic Church always returns to these basic principles when dealing with immigration policies.

The pastoral letter "Strangers No Longer" details exactly why Catholic social teaching supports less restrictive immigration laws. It states (following Exsul Familia) that "all peoples have the right to conditions worthy of human life and, if these conditions are not present, the right to migrate." (23) This means that if a person is unable to support himself or his family, he has the right to move elsewhere in order to seek new opportunities. Pius XII goes so far as to say that the principle of respect for human dignity extends even to people who cross borders illegally. (24) The implications on immigration of the Church's teachings about dignity and respect for life can be summarized in five reasons.

First, people have the right to seek opportunities in their homelands. Second, if they cannot find suitable opportunities in their homelands that allow them to adequately support their families, (25) they have the right to emigrate, thus seeking such opportunities elsewhere. Third, a country has the right to some border control but not if they use it as a means of acquiring wealth. This third right is cause for some controversy because of its vague wording, but it basically mandates that "more powerful economic nations, which have the ability to protect and feed their residents, have a stronger obligation to accommodate migration flows." (26) Fourth, protection needs to be granted to people fleeing their homelands out of safety concerns. Fifth, illegal immigrants posses human dignity and therefore have the same rights as other native citizens. These principles, given to the peoples of America in "Strangers No Longer," show that the Church is primarily concerned with making sure that everyone is treated with the respect and dignity given by God. Catholic social teaching asks that "everyone should be concerned to create and support institutions that improve the conditions of human life." (27)

The Church has higher expectations of the United States because it is a country with a stronger economy than most other nations. "Strangers No Longer" calls for "the needs of immigrants" to be measured "against the needs of the receiving countries."28 The following passage from this document illustrates exactly what the USCCB means when they ask for a cost-benefit analysis of immigrants and the countries receiving them:
   Since land everywhere offers the possibility of supporting a large
   number of people, the sovereignty of the State, although it must be
   respected, cannot be exaggerated to the point that access to this
   land is, for inadequate or unjustified reasons, denied to needy and
   decent people from other nations, provided of course, that the
   public wealth, considered very carefully, does not forbid this. (29)

This obligation of wealthy countries (such as the United States) to make it possible for immigrants to try their luck stems from another building block of Catholic social teaching: the obligation to promote the common good. The USCCB sees this as the "social conditions that allow people to reach their full human potential and to realize their human dignity." (30) The social conditions referred to include "respect for the person, the social well-being and development of the group and the maintenance by a public authority of peace and security." (31)

Catholic social teaching can be traced back to one basic principle: respect for human dignity. Because of this, people have the right to go where they need to go in order to support their families. Catholic social teaching allows even illegal migration because, while human laws might be violated, the overarching law of God may not be. Allowing both emigration and immigration provides for the common good; therefore, it should not be hindered. This policy is also entirely compatible with, and, indeed, dependent on, the "right to work" philosophy that the Catholic Church espouses. (32)

Compare and Contrast

We now compare and contrast our own libertarian views with several other writers who are often considered to embrace this philosophy. As we shall see, they do not agree with us, at least not on the basis of the issue under consideration--immigration--and much more besides.

Gary S. Becker

Becker's "radical solution" to the immigration challenge is to charge a fee (he mentions $50,000 as a possibility) to would-be entrants to our country. (33) Why is this eminent scholar moved to make this suggestion? There are several reasons.

First, "given the extent of welfare states in countries with higher incomes, it would be difficult to go back to a policy of free migration." This is hardly libertarian. The welfare system is surely incompatible with free enterprise. It compels some people to, in effect, pay others because the latter are poor. In contrast, the free movement of people is near the core of laissez-faire capitalism. Therefore, when the two are in conflict, we find Becker supporting the one incompatible with liberty and jettisoning the other that is part and parcel of freedom.

Second, "certain categories of migrant might be allowed to benefit from a loans system to enable them to pay the fee over a period of years. This could operate rather like a student loans system in higher education." The student loan system in higher education is perhaps a paradigm case of a policy not to pursue if one is a libertarian. (34)

Third, "charging a fee would be a much more efficient way of controlling economic migration than the use of quotas and other bureaucratic systems of control." This is indubitably true, but efficiency, while it stems from liberty, is not itself a libertarian desideratum.

How does the main suggestion of charging a fee stack up against the libertarian criterion? Not too well. Now, of course, there is nothing incompatible with the free-enterprise system to charge for services. This is pretty much the way things are done. However, if a scheme is not to violate property rights, then those charging the fee must be entitled to do so; they must own the good or service. Otherwise, the scheme resembles highway robbery, in which fees are also levied. Therefore, does the US government own the right to settle in "its" land? It is difficult to see how this could be true because under libertarianism, it is homesteading that determines initial rights over virgin land. (35) Furthermore, the apparatus of the state has never homesteaded so much as a square inch of territory over which it holds sway. On the contrary, it is illicit for a government to prevent someone, domestic or outsider, from mixing his labor with uninhabited land, say, in Alaska or Wyoming.

On the other hand, if the US government is really a voluntary club, then and only then would it be appropriate to charge a fee to new entrants, as per Becker. Those who want to join the golf club may appropriately be charged an admission fee, but the US government is not a voluntary club. There is no contract that all of its "members" signed. (36) Indeed, Schumpeter states, "The theory which construes taxes on the analogy of club dues or of the purchase of the services of, say, a doctor only proves how far removed this part of the social science is from scientific habits of mind." (37)

William Simon

Simon asks us to
   consider the case of a large country like China threatening to
   inundate a much smaller country, say, Singapore, with so many
   immigrants that the entire political complexion would be changed by
   means of democratic and constitutional process. And what if this
   were to be done for Chinese reasons of state, ideological or
   strategic? Should a nation simply accept the impending disruption
   or destruction of its economic life, even putting aside the
   question of the social order and historical continuity? (38)

Here is his answer: "If unlimited immigration presents a threat of this sort, a nation may reasonably put some limits upon its immigration on the grounds of protection of property and economic life. To me, this seems to be the only compelling argument in favor of limits upon immigration with the context of a 'Great Society.'" (39)

This will not do, on either libertarian or economic grounds. Given a laissez-faire society in the target country of Singapore, this means that each and every square inch of its territory is owned by some citizen of it. Suppose 5 percent of the Singaporeans wish to sell their property to the Chinese. May the other 95 percent, their fellow citizens, prevent them from doing so by use of violence? Of course not; not, at least, if we wish to uphold property rights. A 5 percent changeover in population will not threaten its "entire political complexion." Let us move on to a population change that will indeed disrupt "the social order and historical continuity" of Singapore. Let us suppose that an immigration of Chinese equal to 45 percent of the Singaporean will accomplish this. Is it permissible for the other 55 percent of the Singaporeans to forbid the minority 45 percent from selling out to the Chinese under these more stringent conditions? It is difficult to see how any such conclusion can be made compatible with libertarianism. If 90 percent of the people in the target country wish to supply their land-holdings to the Chinese, this will of course not amount to the "disruption or destruction of its economic life." Rather, it will be the embodiment of the economic law that ex ante, all commercial interactions are necessarily mutually beneficial. The point is, if the Chinese are buying the land from the Singaporeans, then there is gain on both sides. There is no need for Simon's panic in behalf of the latter.

This is in sharp contrast to the vast population movement from Russia to Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia under the old Soviet system. (40) Here, the citizens of the recipient countries did indeed suffer as their culture, their history, and their economic system was taken from them by force. This, though, was an invasion, not an immigration, and Simon should have been able to distinguish between the two.

Daniel Griswold

In the view of Griswold:
   If we want to "get control" of our border with Mexico, the smartest
   thing we could do would be to allow more workers to enter the
   United States legally under the umbrella of comprehensive
   immigration reform. Then we could focus our enforcement resources
   on a much smaller number of people who for whatever reason are
   still operating outside the law. (41)

It is all well and good to "allow more workers to enter the United States legally." They have a right to do so, as we have seen, above, and changing the law to reflect this ethical insight is entirely justified. To support the "focus [of] our enforcement resources on a much smaller number of people who for whatever reason are still operating outside the law" is to assume that the law is just in the first place, and this author gives no reason to assume this is the case. He does not even appear aware of the fact that in favoring this public policy, he is implicitly claiming this to be so, again, without a scintilla of argument on its behalf.

However, in our own libertarian analysis of laws preventing immigration, we have argued that it is an unjust law that prevents innocent would-be homesteaders from entering into virgin territory of which there is plenty in the United States. It thus becomes difficult to reconcile Griswold's public policy recommendation with a regime of liberty.

Stuart Anderson

In Anderson's view, "by providing a legal path to entry for Mexican farm workers the bracero program significantly reduced illegal immigration. The end of the bracero program in 1964 (and its curtailment in 1960) saw the beginning of the increases in illegal immigration that we see up to the present day." (42)

This system of temporary work permits is certainly an improvement, a move in the direction of liberty, compared to the situation where immigrants are frozen out of the country entirely. If these people have a right to migrate to this or any other country permanently, and they have, then, compared to that state of affairs, the bracero program is an outright violation of their rights.

Let us allow Anderson another attempt: The approach that offers the most realistic opportunity for significant and positive change is one that combines new temporary worker visas with a transition that addresses those currently in the country illegally. Without such an approach, ten years from now both sides of the debate will still decry the status quo. (43)

Again, we readily admit, the bracero is a "significant and positive change" toward libertarianism. However, it is only a move in this direction; it is not the final stopping point; it is not just, for reasons we have explored.


Libertarian reasoning, stemming from a legal and political analysis, has many overlaps with the morals-based justification of the Church on the question of immigration. Libertarians believe that in order to maintain the highest levels of justice and freedom, people must be allowed to do whatever they want so long as they respect the identical rights of all others. This is precisely what it means to not violate the nonaggression principle. (44) Allowing open borders is the only possible way to respect freedom for all individuals: Immigrants are free to live and work where they want, as long as no private property rights are violated, and native citizens are free to rent to, sell to, and employ whoever they wish on their own property. Because immigration increases independence from government regulations, libertarians favor it. (45)

Immigrants are attracted to the potential wealth that can be gained in America, and residents are willing to feed them, house them, and give them jobs because the Americans value the money and the labor that they receive from the immigrants. As Todea writes, "the fact that individuals are attracted by the prospect of immigration is linked to the fact that immigration promotes prosperity and productivity at the level of all communities." (46) To deny this possibility would be incorrect. Immigration does not violate the NAP; thus, attempts to limit it by force, even partially, as in the cases of Becker, Simon, Griswold, and Anderson, go against the foundations of libertarianism.

Much in the same way that libertarians say that one person's rights stop where another person's rights start, Catholic social teaching makes the concession that immigration should only be allowed if the sovereign nation receiving the migrants does not unduly suffer due to the influx of immigrants. The Catholic Church maintains that migration is only justified when the migrant is in search of basic human dignity, which in the case of immigration is usually a stable job that pays enough to provide for a family and safe environment in which to live. Immigrants would not migrate if they did not perceive it as beneficial. The nonaggression principle aligns with what the Catholic Church pronounces with regard to maintaining public wealth: If there were to be a point in time that the United States could not support new people, then they would no longer be obligated to allow new migrants into the country. However, by analyzing the situation economically, it is possible to show that open borders will not cause a strain on the economy of any country, in particular the immigration from poorer countries to the United States. Immigration increases globalization, which encourages specialization of trade. This allows the United States to become more efficient. By using migrants to fill in gaps in the labor market, mutual gains are made. Immigration also improves the economies of countries that send immigrants because remittances provide for growth and entrepreneurship in immigrants' countries of origin.

Libertarians look at immigrants as people whose freedom is essential in maintaining an effective economic system in an increasing global world. The Catholic Church views the freedom of immigrants to migrate as an essential part of a moral society because globalization brings different cultures of the world together. These two ideas complement each other because they both have the same implications: open up the borders and allow people to prosper and enjoy the benefits of freedom.


(1.) For an economic analysis of the right to migrate from the perspective of Catholic social teaching, see Andrew M. Yuengert, "Catholic Social Teaching on the Economics of Immigration," Journal of Markets & Morality 3, no. 1 (Spring 2000): 88-99; and idem, Inhabiting the Land: The Case for the Right to Migrate (Grand Rapids: Acton Institute, 2003).

(2.) On the relationship between libertarianism and Catholic social thought, see the controversy "Does Libertarianism Tempt Some Catholics to Stray from Catholic Social Thought?" Journal of Markets & Morality 14, no. 2 (Fall 2011): 487-559. Other attempts, beside the present paper, to reconcile libertarianism and Catholicism include Javier Portillo, "The Gracious Market" (unpublished manuscript, 2011); Robert A. Sirico, Catholicism''s Developing Social Teaching (Grand Rapids: Acton Institute, 1993); idem, Moral Base for Liberty (Irvington-on-Hudson, NY: Foundation for Economic Education, 1996); idem, The Entrepreneurial Vocation (Grand Rapids: Acton Institute, 2001); idem, The Soul of Liberty (Grand Rapids: Acton Institute, 2002); Brian Griffiths, Robert A. Sirico, Norman Barry, and Frank Field, Capitalism, Morality, and Markets (London, UK: Institute for Economic Affairs, 2001); and Thomas Woods, The Church and the Market (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2005). In contrast, Novak sees great affinity between conservatism and Catholicism. See Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1978); idem, The Denigration of Capitalism (Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 1979); idem, Capitalism and Socialism (Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 1979); idem, Liberation South, Liberation North (Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 1981); idem, The Corporation: A Theological Inquiry (Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 1981); idem, Toward the Future: Catholic Social Thought and the U.S. Economy--A Lay Letter (New York: Lay Commission on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy, 1984); idem, "The Liberal Society as Liberation Theology," Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy 2, no. 1 (1985): 27--42; idem, "The Two Catholic Letters on the U.S. Economy," Challenge and Response, ed. Robert Royal (Washington, DC: Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1985), 30-32; idem, "The Bishops and the Poor," Commentary (May 1985): 20-22; idem, Will It Liberate? Questions about Liberation Theology (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1986); idem, "Boredom, Virtue, and Democratic Capitalism," Commentary 88, no. 3 (September 1989): 34-37; idem, The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (New York: The Free Press, 1993).

(3.) A small but significant minority of libertarians oppose open borders. For example, Peter Brimelow, Alien Nation: Common Sense about America's Immigration Disaster (New York: Random House, 1995); Hans-Hermann Hoppe, "The Case for Free Trade and Restricted Immigration," Journal of Libertarian Studies 13, no. 2, (Summer 1998): 221-23; idem, Democracy, the God That Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy, and Natural Order (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2001), 159-60; idem, "Natural Order, the State, and the Immigration Problem," Journal of Libertarian Studies 16, no. 1 (Winter 2002): 75-97; John Hospers, "A Libertarian Argument Against Open Borders," Journal of Libertarian Studies 13, no. 2 (1998): 153-65; Stephan Kinsella, "A Simple Libertarian Argument Against Unrestricted Immigration and Open Borders," (September 1, 2005), accessed March 22, 2012,; Tibor Machan, "Immigration into a Free Society," Journal of Libertarian Studies 13, no. 2 (Summer 1998): 199-204; Murray N. Rothbard, "Nations by Consent: Decomposing the Nation-State," Journal of Libertarian Studies 11, no. 1 (Winter 1994): 1-10; Julian Simon, "Are There Grounds for Limiting Immigration?" Journal of Libertarian Studies 13, no. 2 (Summer 1998): 137-52; Jesus Huerta de Soto, "A Libertarian Theory of Free Immigration," Journal of Libertarian Studies 13, no. 2 (Summer 1998): 187-97. Many conservatives oppose free immigration, but there is also a sharp divide between libertarians and conservatives, fully as large as the one between libertarians and liberals.

(4.) See on this Chris Berg, "Open the Borders," Policy 26, no. 1 (Autumn 2010): 3-7; Walter Block, "A Libertarian Case for Free Immigration," Journal of Libertarian Studies 13, no. 2 (Summer 1998): 167-86; idem, "The State Was a Mistake," book review of Democracy, The God That Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy and Natural Order, by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, (May 25, 2004), accessed March 22, 2012,; idem, "Hoppe, Kinsella and Rothbard II on Immigration: A Critique," Journal of Libertarian Studies (forthcoming); idem, "Rejoinder to Hoppe on Immigration," Journal of Libertarian Studies (forthcoming); Walter Block and Gene Callahan, "Is There a Right to Immigration? A Libertarian Perspective," Human Rights Review 5, no. 1 (October-December 2003): 46-71; Albert Esplugas and Manuel Lora, "Immigrants: Intruders or Guests? A reply to Hoppe and Kinsella," Journal of Libertarian Studies 22, no. 1 (Winter 2010): 185-218; David D. Friedman, "Open the Gates," The Machinery of Freedom: A Guide to Radical Capitalism (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1995 [1973]); Anthony Gregory and Walter Block, "On Immigration: Reply to Hoppe," Journal of Libertarian Studies 21, no. 3 (Summer 2007): 25-42; James L. Hudson, "The Philosophy of Immigration," Journal of Libertarian Studies 8, no. 1 (Winter 1986): 51-62; Jan Krepelka, "A Pure Libertarian Theory of Immigration," Journal of Libertarian Studies 22, no. 1 (Winter 2010): 35-52; Michael Rozeff, "Communities, Immigration, and Decentralization," (December 14, 2005), accessed March 22, 2012, http://; Pascal Salin, "L'immigration dans une societe libre" [Immigration in a free society], chapter 11 in Liberalisme (Paris: Odile Jacob, 2000); Ken Schoolland, "Immigration: Controversies, Libertarian Principles and Modern Abolition," (presentation, 20th Annual World Conference of the International Society for Individual Liberty, Dax, France, 2001). This issue is highly contentious within the libertarian community; one of its leading lights has even changed his mind on it. In 1962, Rothbard was in favor of open borders; in 1994, Rothbard opposed this policy. See Murray N. Rothbard, Man, Economy, and State, Scholar's ed. (Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2004 [1962]) and idem, "Nations by Consent."

(5.) Michael Hoefer, Nancy Rytina, and Bryan C. Baker, "Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2010," Department of Homeland Security: Office of Immigration Statistics (February 2011), accessed March 22, 2012,

(6.) Block and Callahan, "Is There a Right to Immigration?" 46.

(7.) Block and Callahan, "Is There a Right to Immigration?" 47.

(8.) Berg, "Open the Borders," 3.

(9.) Block, "Earning Happiness Through Homesteading Unowned Land: A Comment on 'Buying Misery with Federal Land' by Richard Stroup," Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies 15, no. 2 (Summer 1990): 237-53; idem, "Homesteading City Streets; An Exercise in Managerial Theory," Planning and Markets 5, no. 1 (September 2002): 18-23; idem, "On Reparations to Blacks for Slavery," Human Rights Review 3, no. 4 (July-September 2002): 53-73; Walter Block and Guillermo Yeatts, "The Economics and Ethics of Land Reform: A Critique of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace's 'Toward a Better Distribution of Land: The Challenge of Agrarian Reform,'" Journal of Natural Resources and Environmental Law 15, no. 1 (1999-2000): 37-69; Walter Block and Richard Epstein, "Debate on Eminent Domain," NYU Journal of Law & Liberty 1, no. 3 (2005): 1144-69; Per Bylund, "Man and Matter: A Philosophical Inquiry into the Justification of Ownership in Land from the Basis of Self-Ownership" (master's thesis, Lund University, 2005), http://; Hans-Hermann Hoppe, The Economics and Ethics of Private Property: Studies in Political Economy and Philosophy (Boston: Kluwer, 1993); idem, "Of Private, Common, and Public Property and the Rationale for Total Privatization," Libertarian Papers 3, no. 1 (2011): 1-13; Kinsella, "A Libertarian Theory of Contract: Title Transfer, Binding Promises, and Inalienability," Journal of Libertarian Studies 17, no. 2 (Spring 2003): 11-37; idem, "How We Come to Own Ourselves," (September 7, 2006), accessed March 22, 2012, http://; John Locke, "An Essay Concerning the True Origin, Extent and End of Civil Government," in Social Contract: Essays by Locke, Hume, and Rousseau, ed. E. Barker (New York: Oxford University Press, 1948), 17-18; Ellen Frankel Paul, Property Rights and Eminent Domain (New Brunswick: Transaction, 1987); Murray N. Rothbard, For a New Liberty (New York: Macmillan, 1973), 32; Michael Rozeff, "Original Appropriation and Its Critics," (September 1, 2005), accessed March 22, 2012, rozeff18.html.

(10.) Block and Callahan, "Is There a Right to Immigration?" 56.

(11.) Diana Virginia Todea, "A Libertarian Account of Freedom of Movement and Open Borders," Scientific Journal of Humanistic Studies 2, no. 2 (2010): 99-104.

(12.) Even if they did, this would still be fully compatible with the libertarian ethos, which certainly welcomes competition. The wages of the domestic workers might fall relatively, but they would still benefit consumers because prices of finished goods would be lower than otherwise. Quite possibly, the gains to them as consumers would more than offset their losses as producers.

(13.) Todea, "A Libertarian Account of Freedom," 100.

(14.) Berg, "Open the Borders," 3.

(15.) Berg, "Open the Borders," 3.

(16.) Todea, "A Libertarian Account of Freedom," 101.

(17.) Berg, "Open the Borders," 4.

(18.) Berg, "Open the Borders," 4.

(19.) Block and Callahan, "Is There a Right to Immigration?" 56.

(20.) For the social implications of humanity's solidarity, see United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Mexican Episcopal Conference, Pastoral Letter "Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope" (January 22, 2003).

(21.) Berg, "Open the Borders," 3.

(22.) William J. Byron, "Ten Building Blocks of Catholic Social Teaching," America: The National Catholic Weekly (February 16, 2009), accessed March 22, 2012, http://

(23.) United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Mexican Episcopal Conference, "Strangers No Longer," 29.

(24.) Pope Pius XII, Apostolic Constitution Exsul Familia Nazarethana (August 1, 1952).

(25.) If this is interpreted as a right to venture onto other people's property, then there would be a conflict between libertarianism and Catholic Social Teaching. However, there are no Catholic theologians who view the right to immigrate as equivalent to the right to trespass.

(26.) United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Mexican Episcopal Conference, "Strangers No Longer," 36.

(27.) Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. revised in accordance with the official Latin text promulgated by Pope John Paul II, 1997, par. 1926.

(28.) United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Mexican Episcopal Conference, "Strangers No Longer," 30. This is not congruent with libertarianism, which does not recognize any "measuring" of one right against another. If there is a seeming conflict, in this philosophy, only one, not both, of the contending principles can be licit. See on this Machan, "Rights May Never Be In Conflict," The Daily Bell (May 31, 2010), Tibor-Machan-Rights-May-Never-Be-In-Conflict.html, accessed March 22, 2012; Murray N. Rothbard, "The Heresy of Prudence," (2005), accessed March 22, 2012, rothbard/rothbard65.html; and Hillel Steiner, An Essay on Rights (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994).

(29.) Pope Pius XII, Apostolic Constitution Exsul Familia, 51, quoted in United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Mexican Episcopal Conference, "Strangers No Longer," 30.

(30.) "Summary Report of the Task Force on Catholic Social Teaching and Catholic Education," quoted in Byron, "Ten Building Blocks of Catholic Social Teaching."

(31.) "Summary Report of the Task Force," 5.

(32.) Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Laborem Exercens (1981).

(33.) Gary S. Becker, The Challenge of Immigration: A Radical Solution (London, UK: Institute for Economic Affairs, 2011).

(34.) Libertarians oppose coercive programs. The student loan system in higher education is supported by Pell Grants and other statist measures based on compulsory taxation. Therefore, this system is incompatible with libertarianism.

(35.) Hoefer et al., "Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population." See note 9.

(36.) Lysander Spooner, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority and a Letter to Thomas F. Bayard (Larkspur, CO: Rampart College, 1966 [1870]).

(37.) Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (New York: Harper, 1942), 198.

(38.) Simon, "Are There Grounds for Limiting Immigration?" 146.

(39.) Simon, "Are There Grounds for Limiting Immigration?" 146.

(40.) See "The Sound of Freedom,", accessed March 22, 2012,; Jason MacLeod, "The Nonviolent Liberation of Latvia," The Change Agency (January 2009), accessed March 22, 2012, 03_enews/newsletter.asp?ID=208; Valery Tihkov, "History and Legacies of the USSR: The Demise of a Multiethnic Experiment," in Searchingfor Peace in Europe and Eurasia, ed. Paul van Tongeren, Hans van de Veen, and Juliet Verhoeven (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2002), 27-39.

(41.) Daniel Griswold, "To 'Control the Border,' First Reform Immigration Law," Cato@ Liberty (April 29, 2010), accessed March 22, 2012, -first-reform-immigration-law/.

(42.) Stuart Anderson, "The Impact of Agricultural Guest Worker Programs on Illegal Immigration," National Foundation for American Policy (November 20, 2003), accessed March 22, 2012, Nov20_2003_pr.aspx.

(43.) Anderson, "Making the Transition from Illegal to Legal Migration," National Foundation for American Policy (November 20, 2003), accessed March 22, 2012,

(44.) Block and Callahan, "Is There a Right to Immigration?" 56.

(45.) Berg, "Open the Borders," 3.

(46.) Todea, "A Libertarian Account of Freedom," 100.

Bridget Kratz

Economics Department

Joseph A. Butt, SJ, College of Business

Loyola University New Orleans

Walter E. Block

Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed

Chair and Professor of Economics

Joseph A. Butt, SJ, College of Business

Loyola University New Orleans
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Author:Kratz, Bridget; Block, Walter E.
Publication:Journal of Markets & Morality
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2012
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